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IHRO Chair DS Gill
Fauja Singh Campaigns for Women's Rights in India
world's senior most marathon runner, Fauja Singh, fondly referred to as
the "Turbaned Tornado" for his age-defying feats around the world, led a
large group on Wednesday, January 16, 2013, of runners from all ages in
a "mini marathon" to register his concerns over India's culrure of
violence against women and to generate social awareness for the rights
and security of women in India.
A great grandfather himself, 102-year-old Sardar Fauja Singh with his signature "basanti" coloured turban and deep blue jogging suit, was the star of the event. The run began in Phase 1 of Mohali (Punjab) amid slogans of "Bole So Nihal - Sat Sri Akal", with school children and other participants releasing balloons as well as beating of drums.
The civil and police administration made adequate arrangements for the event, while the organisers distributed pamphlets en route as the "Turbaned Tornado" led a galaxy of veteran sports stars to Mohali's Phase 7 market, where they were warmly received by the people.
Those who ran along side Sikh-Briton Fauja Singh, included the unassuming gold-medal athlete, 96 year-old Maan Kaur and her 74 year-old sprinter son, Gurdev Singh, both from Chandigarh, Punjab. Incidentally, Mann Kaur, who holds the world record for 100 as well as 200 meters race in the above 95-years category, was declared as "Athlete of the year" for 2011 at a veterans' meet at Sacramento, USA.
Others included the 66 years' Subedar Gurnek Singh, 62 years old marathoner Pal Singh, triple gold medalist Amrik Singh Abrahawan who is 63 years and the 50 year-old sprinter and jumper Satminder Singh.
Among the participants was Ravinder Singh, who recently brought a team from Sierra Leone in Africa that participated in the recent World Cup Kabaddi.
Before the run began, these veterans who sported white or peppered beards and hair, were seen warming up.
In their interaction, Fauja Singh and Maan Kaur said that they had decided to participate in this unique event to express their concern over the incidence of crime against women, which has brought shame to India worldwide. Maan Kaur was of the opinion that promotion of sports meant "developing healthy minds in healthy bodies".
Sardar Fauja Singh in his message appealed to the people to rationalise their needs. "Though we all need money to survive, but it is not necessary to be greedy. Ohi sunno jo samajh aa javey, te ohi khao jo hajum ho javey ("Pay heed to only what you can relate to and eat only what can be digested"), he said.
Touching his turban, he added that it was once an accepted fact that blessed by the Gurus, a Sikh would always stand in defence of women. While history was replete with examples of Sikhs who have defended women of other faiths too, he said, "I am pained to listen that my daughters, grand daughters and great grand daughters are no longer safe."
The organiser of the event, Sardarni Jagjit Kaur, managing director of the Rozana Spokesman, said that unless they were genuinely empowered in all walks of life, women would remain at the receiving end. She advocated the need for role fluidity, change in public perception and constant prodding towards bringing a social change. She quoted her own example that despite having run a media house and being an educationist, Indian society still resisted accepting her distinct identity.
Her husband, Joginder Singh Sawhney, who is the Editor of the paper said that mere legislation would not help unless it was supported by the necessary social change. He said that it was disturbing that despite the awareness which was associated with the resentment to the Delhi gang rape incident, crimes against women continued to rise. He said that the "Mini Marathon" was aimed at associating respected icons of the public towards this campaign.
[Courtesy: The Hindu newspaper. Edited for sikhchic.com]
January 18, 2013